Shavuot dancing in the valley

The Vertigo dance company invites visitors to check out its new quarters in the heart of nature - and take in some fancy choreography, too.

stretching 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
stretching 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The hens would never recognize their former quarters. An abandoned battery henhouse, one of several on a hillside at Kibbutz Netiv Halamed Hey, has become the flagship building of Vertigo's Eco-Art Village that will host the upcoming Shavuot Celebration, a celebration of movement and dance from June 6-9. Its centerpiece will be Vertigo's Birth of the Phoenix, a work that celebrates man and his interaction with the four elements - earth, fire, water, air - and one living thing, wood. The show takes place under a geodesic dome made of bamboo, with the audience sitting around the dancers. There will also be short pieces (first attempts by young choreographers); a performance workshop with audience participation; and Multijam, a place in which creative spontaneity will lead to music, dance, the plastic arts, writing, working with clay and much more. The festival makes actual what has been virtual, in that it is the joint creation of Vertigo and Bodyways, an arts and movement portal where you can find almost anything to do with the way we use our bodies - from contact improvisation to healers ( The Elah Valley area is gorgeous, featuring green fields and hills, quiet, birdsong, vineyards and underground caves, all a short ride from both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The kibbutz is named for the 35 young men who lost their lives trying to resupply the beleaguered troops of Gush Etzion during the War of Independence. The eco-art village vision "will bring together the creative arts and ecology to create a unique, intentional community… for people from both across Israel and around the world," according to the handsome brochure, printed on recycled paper. In real terms, it means that there will be all kinds of programs for professional dancers, as well as community-based projects designed to bring disparate groups of people together through movement and the natural world. The initiative came from the Jerusalem-based, award-winning Vertigo Dance Company. Putting their money where their mouths are, Vertigo founders Adi Shaal and Noa Wertheim, their three boys aged nine, five and three, Wertheim's three sisters and their families all moved to the kibbutz; work on the village has started. Volunteers transformed the henhouse, which now has a comfortable seating area, a beautiful dance studio, a play/sleep area and what will be a natural-foods coop with walls made of bales of straw plastered with adobe. Water is recycled, the energy is solar. Camping sites and a café are envisioned. Explaining Vertigo's embrace of ecological concerns, Shaal explains that there is no real difference between the movement arts and ecology. Both come from the same source, or rather from its essential lack "of movement and physical connection with nature. Today's children know nothing of the natural world. Ecology and art both belong to the natural order of things that we ignore truly at our peril." Nimi Yoffe, head of the Yoav Yehuda and Lachish regional council's department of tourism and agriculture that is sponsoring this and other area Shavuot festivals, puts it more bluntly: "It's to propagate ecology through art."